King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invades Judah

2 Kings 24:1-9   The following year (605BC), King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invades Judah and King Jehoiakim is forced to become a vassal king (see 8 on Map 60).

After three years (in 602BC), Pharoah Neco of Egypt re-takes Gaza from the Babylonians (see Jeremiah 47:1), and Jehoiakim rebels against his overlord, Nebuchadnezzar. In December 599BC, Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite forces are deployed against Judah. Jehoiakim is killed and is succeeded by his son Jehoiachin in 598BC.

 

Gaza port (Ramez Habboub)

Gaza from the sea  (Ramez Habboub)

 

Jeremiah & Zephaniah warn the people of Jerusalem prior its fall in 587BC that it will be judged for its unfaithfulness to God.
 

Habbakuk asks why God apparently allows the cruel Babylonians to succeed.

 

2 Kings 24:10-20   Later in 598BC, Nebuchadnezzar beseiges Jerusalem. King Jehoiachin surrenders in March 597BC and ten thousand Judaeans (including the prophet Ezekiel) are taken captive to Babylonia (see 9 on Map 60). Nebuchadnezzar strips the Temple of all the gold articles made by King Solomon. Jehoiachin is taken to Babylon and Zedekiah is installed in his place as a puppet king for eleven years (597-587BC).

 

The Babylonians

Babylonia was one of the superpowers of the ancient world. Centred on the ancient city of Babylon in Lower Mesopotamia, Babylonia expanded rapidly around 1700BC when King Hammurabi created a new empire out of the lands of the former kingdoms of Sumer and Akkad. Hammurabi is famous for compiling a code of laws, with which Moses, as a royal prince in Egypt, may well have been familiar long before the ‘Law of Moses’ was given to him on Mt Sinai in c.1446 BC (see Exodus 20:1-21).

Trade and culture thrived for about 150 years until Babylon was sacked by the Hittites in the 15th century BC, and became little more than a small city state for most of the next eight hundred years.

 

Ruins of Ancient Babylon   (Arlo Abrahamson)

Ruins of Ancient Babylon   (Arlo Abrahamson)

 

In 729BC, Babylonia was conquered by King Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria, who had conquered the northern parts of Israel in 733 BC, and Syria in 731 BC (see 2 Kings 15:29). It remained under Assyrian rule for a hundred years until Babylon rebelled on the death of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal in 627BC. With the help of the Medes, King Nabopolassar of Babylonia sacked Nineveh and conquered the Assyrians in 612BC.

Nabopolassar established what is now generally known as the ‘Chaldean’ or New Babylonian Empire. Under Nabopolassar’s son Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylonia once again became the dominant power of the civilised world. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in 605 BC and King Jehoiakim of Judah became subservient to the King of Babylon. Having defeated Pharoah Neco of Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish in 606BC (see 2 Kings 23:9), the Babylonians also succeeded in taking the lands of the Mediterranean coastal plain from the hands of the Egyptians (see 2 Kings 24:7).

Three years later, however, Pharoah Neco re-gained Gaza, so Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar (see 2 Kings 24:1). During the winter of 598 BC, Nebuchadnezzar beseiged Jerusalem and Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin surrendered on 16th March 597BC. He was taken to Babylon, along with the gold furnishings from the Temple and ten thousand captives (including the prophet Ezekiel), and Zedekiah was installed as King of Judah (see 2 Kings 24:10-14). This first conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 597BC is recorded on a clay tablet known as the ‘Babylonian Chronicle’ which can be seen in the British Museum in London.

 

Babylonian Chronicle for years 605-594 BC (British Museum)

Babylonian Chronicle for the years 605-594 BC   (British Museum)

 

Eight years later, in 589BC, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and Jerusalem was beseiged again for over a year and a half before finally falling in 587BC. The Temple was destroyed and the population was taken into exile in Babylonia (see 2 Kings 25:1-10).

Nebuchadnezzar then proceeded to conquer Phoenicia in 585BC and to invade Egypt in 567BC. The dominance of Babylonia only came to an end when King Cyrus of Persia captured Babylon in 539 BC, and Babylonia became part of the Persian Empire (see Ezra 1:1).

 

Ezekiel  predicts the fall of Jerusalem and speaks about the return of the exiles to Israel.

Daniel is in exile in Babylon at the same time as Ezekiel. He is persecuted for his faith between 598 and 539BC.

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